ARLINGTON, Texas — Walker Buehler pitched in the World Series like one of the Los Angeles Dodgers aces of old. Think Sandy Koufax, Fernando Valenzuela and Orel Hershiser, all leaders of title runs.
Now Buehler has the storied franchise two wins from the championship that has eluded it for more than 30 years.
Buehler struck out 10 batters in six innings in a pulsating performance, and the Dodgers beat the Tampa Bay Rays 6-2 on Friday night for a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven matchup.
"Being a big-game pitcher and really succeeding on this stage, there's only a few guys currently and throughout history," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "He's in some really elite company."
Hershiser was one of those, winning two games in the 1988 World Series, when the Dodgers celebrated the sixth — and most recent — of their MLB titles, including their days in Brooklyn. They didn't return to the Fall Classic for three decades, but that 2017 appearance started a run of three World Series berths in four years.
After disappointments at the hands of the Houston Astros and then the Boston Red Sox, the Dodgers have the upper hand on the Rays. Thirty-eight of 59 previous teams that won Game 3 for a 2-1 lead went on to take the title.
Game 4 is Saturday night.
Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner homered in the first inning Friday against a surprisingly hittable Charlie Morton, who was chased in the fifth.
Austin Barnes, the Dodgers' No. 9 hitter and catcher, added a sixth-inning homer against John Curtiss. He became just the second player to drive in runs with both a homer and a sacrifice bunt in the same game in a World Series. He'll probably remember the home run most.
"It's a cool little stat, but it's not easy to barrel the ball up against all these really good pitchers," Barnes said.
Los Angeles overwhelmed Tampa Bay in all phases, leaving the Rays' scuffling offense with a .206 batting average and 11 runs in the series. The Rays' .133 average (6-for-45) against Clayton Kershaw, Tony Gonsolin and Buehler is the lowest through three World Series games against a team's starters since the Red Sox held the Philadelphia Phillies to .129 in 1915, according to STATS.
Julio Urías, a hard-throwing Mexican left-hander in a Dodgers lineage dating to Valenzuela, is set to start Saturday night, while the Rays will counter with Ryan Yarbrough, who relieved in the first game.
Justin Turner and Austin Barnes homered for the Dodgers, who have outhomered the Rays 7-4 in the series and opponents 25-16 in the postseason. Barnes also drove in a run with a squeeze, the second player with RBIs on a bunt and homer in a World Series game. (The New York Yankees' Héctor López did it in Game 5 in 1961.)
Steely-eyed like Hershiser, MVP of the 1988 World Series, Buehler has supplanted Kershaw as the Dodgers' ace. He showed no indisposition from the blister on his right index finger that has bothered him.
He has allowed one run in 13 World Series innings that include seven scoreless in Game 3 against Boston two years ago. He improved to 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA in four postseason starts that include the win over the Atlanta Braves in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series last weekend.
"I've taken the failures that I've had and tried to learn from them a little bit," Buehler said.
The 26-year-old right-hander started 15 of 21 batters with strikes and threw strikes on 67 of 93 pitches. Buehler didn't allow a hit until Manuel Margot's one-out double in the fifth. Willy Adames then drove in Margot with another double.
Tampa Bay's only other hit off him was Austin Meadows' leadoff single in the sixth.
"You can see the fastball just pop through the zone," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "Other than a few breaking balls here or there, it was very much a 'there it is, hit it' approach. You totally understand and appreciate why he's so talented."
Rays batters were kept off balance by his mix of 59 four-seam fastballs, 14 knuckle-curves, 12 sliders and eight cut fastballs. He became the first pitcher in the Fall Classic with 10 or more strikeouts in six or fewer innings.
"That might have been the best I've ever seen him," Barnes said.
Blake Treinen and Brusdar Graterol followed with a perfect inning apiece. Kenley Jansen finished the four-hitter, giving up Randy Arozarena's record-tying eighth postseason homer.
Morton, a right-hander who turns 37 on Nov. 12, had entered unbeaten in seven straight postseason decisions, one shy of Orlando Hernandez's record, including wins in five consecutive postseason starts. But he took the loss, allowing five runs and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings — more than the four runs total he gave up in his previous five postseason starts combined.
No Rays starter has finished the fifth inning in their past five World Series starts since Matt Garza in Game 3 against the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008. Tampa Bay repeated its pattern of a dozen years ago, losing the opener, winning the next game and dropping the third.
"I wasn't particularly sharp," Morton said. "I felt like I was able to get two strikes pretty quickly with a lot of guys and just not able to put them away."
Turner put the Dodgers ahead on Morton's 14th pitch, turning on a high 94.8 mph fastball with a 1-2 count and driving the ball 397 feet over the left-field wall. Turner's home run was the 11th of his postseason career over 69 games, tying the team record set by Duke Snider over 36 games with the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers from 1954 to 1959.
Los Angeles extended the lead to 3-0 in the third when Morton hit Corey Seager on a toe with a pitch, Turner doubled and Max Muncy drove a cutter into center for a two-run single.
After singles by Cody Bellinger and Joc Pederson, Barnes drove in a run with the safety squeeze to first baseman Ji-Man Choi, the first RBI bunt in any World Series since the Rays' Jason Barlett in Game 2 in 2008 and the first since for the Dodgers since Billy Cox in 1953.
Mookie Betts followed with a two-out RBI single that made it 5-0, and Barnes homered off John Curtiss in the sixth. Five of the Dodgers' first six runs were scored with two outs, raising their total to nine of 18 in this series and 50 of 87 in the postseason.
"Obviously there's two outs, but you can still build an inning not giving away at-bats," Betts said. "That's how you win a World Series."
Betts stole two bases, giving him three in the series and six in the postseason.
Arozarena tied Barry Bonds (2002), Carlos Beltrán (2004) and Nelson Cruz (2011) for homers in a postseason and set the rookie record for hits with 23, one more than Derek Jeter in 1996.